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Michael Neve, 18 November 1982

Edie: An American Biography 
by Jean Stein and George Plimpton.
Cape, 455 pp., £9.95, October 1982, 0 224 02068 4
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Baby Driver: A Story About Myself 
by Jan Kerouac.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 233 97487 3
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... in the United States, and a haunted history stretching from 1774 to the present: the author, Jean Stein, and her co-editor, George Plimpton, of the Paris Review, acknowledge the familial dimension by providing a ‘genealogy of principal characters’ near the end of the book. The founding father was Judge Theodore Sedgwick who came to Stockbridge ...

I want my wings

Andrew O’Hagan: The Last Tycoons, 3 March 2016

West of Eden: An American Place 
by Jean Stein.
Cape, 334 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 0 224 10246 9
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... and things going wrong, but they are at least stories as opposed to advertisements. Jean Stein’s book deploys a wonderful grace in uncovering a monstrous reality – it tells brilliant stories, sometimes very personal ones, and lets their accretion work its own magic. The Steins lived at 1330 Angelo Drive in Beverly Hills, in a big house ...

Like a boll weevil to a cotton bud

A. Craig Copetas, 18 November 1993

New York Days 
by Willie Morris.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £19.45, September 1993, 0 316 58421 5
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... for raw liquor sprayed with vermouth, at Elaine’s Restaurant, or perhaps it’s the home of Jean Stein, the wealthy and stunningly attractive daughter of the chairman of the board of the Music Corporation of America. Money and beauty, as ever, are important, but power and greed have yet to replace ideas and aspirations in the popular currency. It ...


Ian Hamilton: Locating the G-Spot, 5 August 1982

... by Vogue, got into drugs and died – or ‘astro-projected’ – in 1971, aged 28. As with the Jean Harris and Claus von Bulow dramas which were the CTPs of my last two visits to New York, the tale of Edie offers rich lashings of upper-crust unpleasantness. The Sedgwicks are one of the New England families and much of the book’s appeal is in watching all ...

The Reviewer’s Song

Andrew O’Hagan: Mailer’s Last Punch, 7 November 2013

Norman Mailer: A Double Life 
by J. Michael Lennon.
Simon and Schuster, 947 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84737 672 5
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... years. After I stepped off that movie-heavy flight to New York, I was due to have dinner with Jean Stein, who wrote the ‘oral biography’ of Edie Sedgwick. (She had published something of mine in Grand Street, and was a friend of Edward Said’s, whom I knew when I worked at the London Review.) On the day of the dinner she phoned to say that her ...

Deadheaded Sentences

Andrew O’Hagan: A Disservice to Dolly, 4 August 2022

Run Rose Run 
by Dolly Parton and James Patterson.
Century, 439 pp., £20, March, 978 1 5291 3567 1
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The Stories of My Life 
by James Patterson.
Century, 358 pp., £20, June, 978 1 5291 3687 6
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... ex-friend Norman Mailer once told me a story about Faulkner and the Paris Review. The late Jean Stein, sometime in the 1950s, had an affair with Faulkner, and they had sex in the loggia of her father’s Hollywood swimming pool. He was so disgusted he had the loggia pulled down and rebuilt. The affair didn’t last, but ...

‘Someone you had to be a bit careful with’

David Sylvester: Gallery Rogues, 30 March 2000

Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser 
by Harriet Vyner.
Faber, 317 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 571 19627 6
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... may have been the earliest significant biography of this kind, Edie: An American Biography ‘by Jean Stein edited with George Plimpton’, published in 1982. The technique is one which may make it possible for rich girls to produce books they might not have been able to write: assembling a montage from one’s material is a lot easier than analysing ...

I’m being a singer

Andrew O’Hagan: Dandy Highwaymen, 8 October 2020

Sweet Dreams: The Story of the New Romantics 
by Dylan Jones.
Faber, 663 pp., £20, October 2020, 978 0 571 35343 9
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... about robots?Dylan Jones’s book is written in the ‘oral biography’ style pioneered by Jean Stein and George Plimpton, and succeeds, as Edie did, in providing a dazzling portrait of an era. The book should be handed out to kids who think that doing badly in your exams ends your life. For these lipsticked heroes, it was the beginning of ...

Good Fibs

Andrew O’Hagan: Truman Capote, 2 April 1998

Truman Capote: In which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career 
by George Plimpton.
Picador, 498 pp., £20, February 1998, 0 330 36871 0
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... good and lively in its place. It is a method Plimpton (along with his sometime collaborator Jean Stein) used much less beguilingly in a book about Robert Kennedy, but which they deployed to quite stunning effect in Edie, the story of Warhol starlet Edie Sedgewick. ‘The form is particularly appealing for a number of reasons,’ Plimpton ...

Quite Nice

Diana Souhami: Fernande Olivier, 13 December 2001

Loving Picasso: The Private Journal of Fernande Olivier 
edited by Marilyn McCully, translated by Christine Baker.
Abrams, 296 pp., £24, May 2001, 0 8109 4251 8
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... about people who subsequently became famous – Rousseau, Max Jacob, Apollinaire, Gertrude Stein – held together by vanity, an idea of how she wanted to be perceived by readers. In the summer of 1930 extracts were published in Le Soir. Though the tone was guarded and the content anodyne, Picasso was furious. She talked about smoking opium, about sex ...

Don’t look back

Toril Moi: Rereading Duras, 13 April 2023

The Easy Life 
by Marguerite Duras, translated by Olivia Baes and Emma Ramadan.
Bloomsbury, 208 pp., £12.99, December 2022, 978 1 5266 4865 5
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... couldn’t avoid Marguerite Duras. Lacan himself had said of Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein that ‘Marguerite Duras turns out to know what I teach without me,’ and I remember dutifully trying to make sense of that novel within the Lacanian framework. I now realise that I was treating the text as an intellectual puzzle rather than as an ...

At the Barnes

Bridget Alsdorf: On Marie Laurencin, 25 January 2024

... unfolding pleats of a fan and the sloping curves of shoulder, neck and breast. Pablo Picasso and Jean Metzinger had both painted several pictures of women with fans in the preceding years. Laurencin’s woman, unlike theirs, locks eyes with the viewer, as if to say ‘I am a Cubist motif.’The war – and the severed plait – marked Laurencin’s break ...

A Most Consistent Man

Barry Schwabsky: Renoir, 13 September 2018

Renoir: An Intimate Biography 
by Barbara Ehrlich White.
Thames and Hudson, 432 pp., £24.95, October 2017, 978 0 500 23957 5
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... growth, and they never had at their service a comparable command of the medium of paint.’ Leo Stein, born in 1872, the same year as Barnes, had an equally exalted view of Renoir, praising ‘the serene graciousness of his pure and noble joy’. Phillips, born in 1886, saw things differently. To him, Renoir was still important, but you had to be choosy ...

The Scene on the Bridge

Lili Owen Rowlands: Françoise Gilot, 19 March 2020

Life with Picasso 
by Françoise Gilot and Carlton Lake.
NYRB, 384 pp., $17.95, June 2019, 978 1 68137 319 5
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... period, at the moment he became a monument: there are those he counted as friends (Gertrude Stein, Jean-Paul Sartre) and those he had little time for (André Gide, Jean Cocteau); there’s his wrangling with dealers and gallerists; there’s his involvement with the Communist ...

Loafing with the Sissies

Colm Tóibín: The Trials of Andy Warhol, 10 September 2020

Warhol: A Life as Art 
by Blake Gopnik.
Allen Lane, 931 pp., £35, March, 978 0 241 00338 1
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... for the boxes, selling them for $100 or even $50 just to get rid of them.’ Interviewed by Jean Stein for Edie: An American Biography (1982), Jasper Johns said:I liked Andy’s Brillo boxes – the dumbness of the relationship of the thought to technology – to have someone make those dumb plywood boxes and then paint them. I mean, artists have ...

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